Himalayan Balsam

I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole today and thought I'd share the results. It was a difficult one to find much research with regards to medicinal properties, but I did find a couple of studies. If anyone has anything else to add, please do so.

I have this plant in my garden but as yet haven't used it. Its on the list of things to try next year.

I couldn't find a picture from my garden so this one I "borrowed" from the internet will have to do.

Himalayan Balsam

Impatiens glandulifera – Himalayan Balsam. Indian Balsam. Policeman’s Helmet. Ornamental Jewelweed. Poor Man’s Orchid. Kiss-me-on-the-mountain.


Description – Annual succulent-type herb, reaching 2-3 meters. Thick, hollow stems that have a reddish tinge. Lanceolate or elliptic, opposite or whorled leaves that are sharply and closely saw-toothed to 15 cm; may be branched toward the top of the plant. Below the leaf stems are nectar producing glands. A range of shades of pink to pale purple flowers, usually spotted with pouched sepals and a short spur (orchid like). 3-4 cm seed capsules, with many seeds, that “explode” on contact, scattering the seeds up to 7 meters.

Habitat – Native to the Himalayan region but can be found across the Northern Hemisphere, as well as Australia and New Zealand, much of where it is considered an invasive species. Grows in most soil types in full sun to full shade but seems to prefer a rich, damp soil with partial shade; does not do well in drought conditions. Can be found to 4000 meters. Himalayan Balsam may crowd out native species and damage habitat.

Medicinal Uses – Antioxidant. Anxiolytic. Antimicrobial. Analgesic. Anti-inflammatory. Astringent. Diuretic. Himalayan balsam is used in its native southeast Asia region topically for joint pain and skin allergies or as a decoction of the leaves for anxiety.[i] Himalayan Balsam has been shown to have anti-anxiety activity.[ii] Possible cancer inhibitory activity.[iii] It is suggested that the root juice can be used for hematuria. Energetics are cooling and moistening. Flower Essences: Impatiens glandulifera is of the Bach Flower remedies, used for agitation & impatience and is one of the components of Bach’s Rescue Remedy combination.[iv]

Parts Used – Flowers. Leaves.

Harvest – Flowers: Before seed pods form. Leaves: Before flowering.

Preparation Use flowers as a fresh plant poultice or infuse into oil for a salve. Dry leaves for decoctions.

Other Uses – Edible, but stems and older leaves should not be consumed raw.[1] Young leaves can be used sparingly in salads. Immature seed pods can be eaten like radish pods or snow peas. Seeds can be added to baked goods with other seeds or nuts, or ground and used as a flour (substitute for almond or hazelnut flour). Add the seeds to curries.[v] An edible oil can be pressed from the seeds. Use the flowers to make a floral jelly or add to salads. Add to beverages for a pink colour. Used by at least one distillery in Britain to make Himalayan Balsam gin.[2] Dye plant; the constituent lawsone (also found in henna) produces reddish-brown tones.

Constituents – Hyperoside. Glanduliferins A & B. Flavanoids; eriodyctiol, kaempferol, querciten. Terpenes; linalool, canidene, borneol, vulgarone. Phenolic acids; hydroxybenzoic, protocatechuic. Aldehydes; hexanal, benzaldehyde. Lawsone (2-hydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinone), menadione (2-methoxy-1,4-naphthoquinone). Calcium oxalate.

Cautions or Contraindications – Due to the high calcium oxalate content, this plant should not be eaten raw in any quantity. Individuals suffering from kidney disease, arthritis, gout or hyperacidity should avoid this plant internally. Individuals taking lithium should avoid Impatiens due to its diuretic properties.

Other Species of Impatiens:

There are over 1000 species in the Impatiens genus.

Impatiens aurella - Orange Touch-me-not. Pale-yellow Jewelweed.

Impatiens balsamina - Garden Balsam.

Impatiens biflora - Jewelweed. Used in one study for the efficacy of treatment of poison ivy rashes.

Impatiens capensis - Spotted Touch-me-not. Spotted Jewelweed. Orange Jewelweed. Orange Balsam. Widely used as a topical poultice by North American First Nations to treat poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac rashes. Also used as a decoction for digestive issues, kidney problems and headache.[3] Should not be tinctured.

Impatiens ecornuta - Spurless Touch-me-not. Western Touch-me-not.

Impatiens noli-tangere - Common Touch-me-not. Western Touch-me-not.

Impatiens parviflora - Small Touch-me-not. Balsam. Small Balsam.

Impatiens wallerina - Busy Lizzie. Impatiens.

[1] See Cautions or Contraindications

[2] Produces a pale pink coloured gin that becomes a deep violet shade when tonic water is added.

[3] See Cautions or Contraindications

[i] https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/s13002-017-0196-1.pdf?pdf=button%20sticky

[ii] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0197018619301159

[iii] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0367326X15301465

[iv] https://www.bachflower.com/original-bach-flower-remedies/#impatiens

[v] https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/himalayan-balsam-seed-curry-recipe


  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    Pretty flower. I met jewel weed on a wildcrafting class. Didn't get good notes about its uses though. Fortunately, we don't have much poison ivy around here so probably won't need it, but still useful to know just in case.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 995 ✭✭✭✭

    @torey very pretty flower. Have you had any problems with it becoming invasive?

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,516 admin

    @annbeck62 No, it comes back every year in the bed it is planted in but I wouldn't call it invasive. I find plants in the bit of lawn that is adjacent to the bed but as it gets mowed regularly, it doesn't spread. Occasionally I will find a plant in another location but it doesn't spread from that one plant. Its pretty easy to pull out so if it did start to take over, it wouldn't take much to get rid of it.

    My region is pretty dry and we've had drought conditions for a few years. I can see it becoming invasive in other areas, though. In Britain it is choking out native species along river banks. As there isn't much root structure and these are annuals, the river banks are left susceptible to erosion.

  • JennyT Upstate South Carolina
    JennyT Upstate South Carolina Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 6

    If find it fascinating, @torey, that all of those are from the same family.

    I'm extremely familiar with jewelweed. It's in a tincture and cream I purchase from a local store to help me deal with poison ivy rash. I'm severely allergic to it. It doesn't take much for me to catch it and forever to get rid of it. Finding out about jewelweed has been a lifesaver. Now I can catch it sooner and it doesn't last as long.😊

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,413 admin

    @torey thank you for sharing! It is very invasive in Austria. One can find huge areas in forests and along river beds. I have the pale yellow in my garden. It just came from somewhere. I do not mind it in a small area, as bees like it, birds like it and it is easy to weed out. The seeds spread by touching it. I have never used it for medicinal purposes and not for food. I might experiment with seeds for a start.

  • Cornelius
    Cornelius Posts: 872 ✭✭✭✭

    This is very interesting. I haven't seen this before, but it is definitely pretty!